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The Role of an Elder at CCC

April 29, 2021 | Gregg Caruso


What follows are the basic tasks, giftings, and character qualities that will be necessary for both elders and their spouses (if married) at CCC based on our understanding and practice of the New Testament teachings.

PRIMARY TASKS
Elders, which includes the Lead Pastor, have three primary tasks that are carried out in the context of mutual prayer, study, authentic biblical relationships, unity, and consensus building:

  1. Doctrine
  2. Direction
  3. Discipline

Let’s consider them one at a time…

Doctrine – The CCC elders will be the guardians of the church’s doctrine for both the essentials of the Christian faith as well as non-essential (or secondary) issues of faith. In his recent book, Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage, Gavin Ortlund suggests four basic categories of doctrines:

  • First-rank doctrines that are essential to the gospel itself.
  • Second-rank doctrines that are urgent for the health and practice of the church such that they frequently cause Christians to separate at the level of the local church, denomination, and/or ministry.
  • Third-rank doctrines are important to Christian theology, but not enough to justify separation or division among Christians.
  • Fourth-rank doctrines are unimportant to our gospel witness and ministry collaboration.[1]

Christian tradition provides a succinct overview:

“In the essentials, we must have unity; in the non-essentials, we must have liberty; and in all things, we must have charity.” [2]

Direction – In addition to actively and prayerfully listening for what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church, the Elders will also seek input from the Staff, Ministry Leaders, Members, and Attenders to determine the vision of CCC and, with the Lead Pastor, identify 3-5 yearly ministry objectives. The Elders will then delegate to the Lead Pastor the authority to oversee the Staff and Operations of the church, and then consistently hold the Lead Pastor accountable through monthly reports and regular (yearly) performance reviews. The Elders will also consistently evaluate the progress of the ministry objectives by employing both qualitative and quantitative metrics.

  1. Qualitative Metrics include (but are not limited to) widespread genuine joy and excitement in the gospel, unity, maturity, zeal, faith, hope, love, increased boldness and zeal in evangelism with a winsome and contagious witness among a cross-section of people, the aroma of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit, responsive obedience to the Word of God, the fruit of the Spirit, a humble willingness to follow the leadership, eagerness to do works of service, receptivity to non-Christians, seekers, and newcomers, etc.
  2. Quantitative Metrics include (but are not limited to) measuring the numbers of conversions, baptisms, numbers of Bible studies, small groups, those enfolded into groups, weekend worship attendance, general giving, missions giving, numbers of those serving inside and outside the church, numbers of new and consistent givers, involvement in ministries and outreaches, attendance and quality of training events, etc.

Discipline – Broadly speaking, there is a distinction between formative discipline (referring to instruction to develop the disciplines of the faith) and corrective discipline (referring to correcting sin). Corrective discipline refers to any act of correction, whether privately and informally warning a friend (which all Christians are called to engage in with gentleness and humility) or formally engaging a habitually sinning member in the corrective discipline process outlined in Matthew 18:15-19. The elders become involved when all the other relational resources of the church have been exhausted. When the formal process gets to the final stage, the word “ex-communication” is frequently used. To excommunicate is to “ex-commune” someone. Among Protestants, ex-communication does not refer to removing someone from salvation (which the church is incapable of doing) it refers to removing someone from membership in the church and participation in the church’s ministries including the Lord’s Supper. This effectively removes the spiritual connections and covering of the church with a holy hope for deep and heartfelt repentance.

Time Commitment
Certainly, the time commitment will vary. Not every elder will have an equal amount of time per month to serve. However, every elder will need to determine during the vetting process if s/he has sufficient time to devote. The goal during this transition season at CCC is to show that being an elder at CCC is (overall) a joyful endeavor! Whether or not a church believes in “elder for life” there does need to be required sabbaticals (TBD, somewhere between every 3-5 years). At CCC we recommend two meetings a month and (at least) a quarterly gathering with spouses (if married) to continue to build relational connections. The goal of all of these meetings is to balance effectiveness with efficiency.

  1. monthly board meeting to carry out the legal requirements of a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization by reviewing financial and attendance reports, holding the Lead Pastor accountable through engaging with his Ministry Objectives Report, providing counsel and input to the Lead Pastor when asked, and actively moving toward a holy consensus and unity. The agenda for a board meeting is jointly assembled by the Board Facilitator and Lead Pastor and sent out with monthly financial and attendance reports 3-5 days before the Board Meeting so that every member can come prepared to move quickly and efficiently through the agenda. A board meeting should last no more than two hours; however, it will most likely take an additional 1-2 hours to properly prepare for the board meeting.
  2. monthly “work” meeting to engage in extended prayer for the church, the staff, leaders, members, attenders, specific prayer needs, and asking God to bless the church with salvations and discipleship opportunities. Additionally, in a work meeting, the elders will continue to study and refine CCC’s doctrine as well as review any current or possible church discipline issues. Position papers are often written for effective instruction and communication to the rest of the church on first-, second-, and third-rank doctrinal issues that are important to the effective care and discipleship of the local church. These meetings can last 2-3 hours with study in between.
  3. quarterly relational gathering with spouses to share and care for one another. Honest sharing about joys, challenges, struggles, marriage, kids, work, etc., and praying for each other individually as needed.

LEADING LEADERS
There is a difference between a minister and a leader. A minister builds people and a leader builds groups of people. Like wings on a bird, every church needs both to fly straight. In a larger church, the elders must be proven leaders capable of leading other leaders. For the most part, our “frontline” shepherds are our Community Group and Bible Study leaders. A larger church needs “ranchers” to “shepherd the shepherds.” The elders must be growing in their capacity to shepherd and envision the other leaders in the church.

Are leaders born or developed? The answer is YES! Consider Jethro’s counsel to Moses in Exodus 18:21: “Select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.” Every person has a “leadership capacity.” Most people can be trained to be a “leader of ten.” We can think of this as a Community Group or Bible Study leader, whose primary responsibility is to regularly facilitate thoughtful dialogue, prayer, biblical community, and service. Beyond leaders of tens, there are leaders of fifties, hundreds, and thousands. Every person will max out somewhere on that continuum. The larger the church the more essential it is that the Elders (and Management Team Staff) need to be effective and proven leaders of fifties, hundreds, and thousands. It is possible in a growing church that the needs and governance required could outgrow the leadership capacity of an elder (or a staff member), which could be one of the drawbacks of the “elder for life” perspective.

An Elder’s Spouse (If Married)
This is not directly addressed in Scripture but would come under the eldership qualification of managing their household well — with love and dignity (see 1 Timothy 3:4-5).

In addition to being a spiritually mature believer, an elder’s spouse must also be self-differentiated (as should elders!). Jesus would be 100% differentiated, the rest of us would land on a scale ranging from low to higher. People with a high level of differentiation have their own beliefs, convictions, direction, goals, and values apart from the pressures around them. They can choose, before God, how they want to be without being controlled by the approval or disapproval of others. Intensity of feelings, high stress, or the anxiety of others around them does not overwhelm their capacity to think and act intelligently and with responsive wisdom. There are times of high stress and anxiety in an elder’s home and marriage (again, if married). During these seasons the elder has the opportunity to regularly process with other elders while a spouse may feel the weight of the stress and anxiety (no matter how much s/he knows about the situation) without the opportunity to process with others. If s/he is not differentiated s/he may be given to “leaking” stress and anxiety in unhealthy ways. The stress and anxiety can lead to defensiveness, triangulation (i.e., unnecessarily involving a third party), or outright gossip.

Self-differentiation is an emotional health issue. Unfortunately, many churches have not done a good job of integrating emotional health into the discipleship process.

[1] Crossway 2020: 19.

[2] This statement is often attributed to Augustine, yet it (apparently) cannot be found in any Augustinian text. Upon further research, the quotation has been found to be a common tenet quoted as authoritative in several Christian traditions, expressed in various ways, and attributed to various authors. A 17th-century date is provided by Philip Schaff in The History of the Christian Church (Eerdmans Repr 1965, Vol. 7: 650-653), which traces the authorship to Rupertus Meldenius a relatively unknown theologian and author of a “remarkable” tract in which the sentence first occurs.

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